Fixing Social Security And Medicare: Most Favor Some Changes

December 05, 2012, 1:30 PM GMT+0

(Week of 12/1/2012) Entitlement reform is likely to be part of any agreement to avoid the fiscal cliff of tax increases and spending cuts that will occur if no budget agreement is reached by January 1. Majorities in the latest Economist/YouGov Poll are willing to make some changes to those programs, though there is no clear favorite solution—especially when it comes to Social Security.

Nearly half of Americans would favor reducing Medicare benefits for the wealthiest seniors. That is far and away the most popular alternative. Far fewer are willing to raise the eligibility age, turn the program into a voucher plan, or reduce the amounts paid to doctors and hospitals.

Senior citizens, most of whom receive Medicare benefits, hold similar views. 32% of seniors support none of the listed options; for all adults, this number is 28%. Republican respondents were more likely than the public overall to favor a voucher plan, but their top choice is the same as everyone else’s: reducing benefits for the wealthiest.

There is no clear winner when it comes to choosing a way to reduce Social Security costs. 32% and 36% would favor raising the retirement age and reducing benefits to those who retire early, respectively. Fewer want to reduce benefits. The most popular option on this question was "none of the above" (43%).

Self-interest appears to play a large role in views on one of the most hotly-debated Social Security policy choices—raising the eligibility age. 48% of Americans over 65 — most of whom already receive Social Security and are unlikely to have their benefits taken away — are willing to raise the age at which people can receive full benefits. But that option is the least acceptable to the group that is next in line to receive Social Security benefits — only 24% of those between the ages of 45 and 64 think the retirement age should be raised as a way to save money. In fact, 56% of that age group wants no change to Social Security.

Economist/YouGov poll archives can be found here

Photo source: Press Association